Friday, October 3, 2014

“What does it say about a great nation when its most reliable truth tellers are desperate people?”

“What does it say about a great nation when its most reliable truth tellers are desperate people?” Peggy Noonan explores something that's been bothering me for several years now.  I've been thinking of it as the arrogance of the bureaucrats – they no longer seem to think that they work for us (the citizens of the United States), but rather that they suffer our presence when they have to.  The smug mug of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen (at right) is the absolute epitome of this phenomenon.  Peggy has a slightly different angle:
We're all used to a certain amount of doublespeak and bureaucratese in government hearings. That's as old as forever. But in the past year of listening to testimony from government officials, there is something different about the boredom and indifference with which government testifiers skirt, dodge and withhold the truth. They don't seem furtive or defensive; they are not in the least afraid. They speak always with a certain carefulness — they are lawyered up — but they have no evident fear of looking evasive. They really don't care what you think of them. They're running the show and if you don't like it, too bad.

And all this is a new bureaucratic style on the national level. During Watergate those hauled in and grilled by Congress were nervous. In Iran-Contra, Ollie North was in turn stoic, defiant and unafraid to make an appeal to the public. But commissioners and department heads now—they really think they're in charge. They don't bother to fake anxiety about public opinion. They care only about personal legal exposure. They do not fear public wrath.

All this became apparent in the past year's IRS hearings, and was pronounced in Tuesday's Secret Service hearings.

Julia Pierson, the director, did not seem at all preoccupied with what you thought of her. She was impassive, generally unresponsive and unforthcoming. She didn't bother to show spirit or fiery commitment. She was the lifeless expression of consultant-guided anti-truth.

No question was answered straight and simple. Everything was convoluted and involved extraneous data, so that listeners couldn't follow the answer and by the end couldn't remember the question. I am certain government witnesses do this deliberately — the rounded words, long sentences that collapse, the bureaucratic drone — so reporters will fall asleep and fail to file. An hour in Tuesday I expected the TV camera to slowly slide toward the ceiling, with the screen covered in a cameraman's drool...
Read the whole thing...

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